Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Sunday, April 23, 2006

  Another imminent threat, this time from Iran

In the months before unleashing the full invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration did its best to convince us suckers that Hussein was an imminent threat to attack the United States. For example, Condoleezza Rice on CNN from Sept. 8, 2002:

And we know that when the inspectors assessed this after the Gulf War, he was far, far closer to a crude nuclear device than anybody thought—maybe six months from a crude nuclear device...

The problem here is that there will always be some uncertainty about how quickly he can acquire nuclear weapons. But we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.

Again, George Bush in his infamous speech in Cincinnati on Oct. 7, 2002:

Knowing these realities, America must not ignore the threat gathering against us. Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof—the smoking gun—that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.

And here's John Bolton at the Hudson Institute on Nov. 1, 2002:

We estimate that once Iraq acquires fissile material -- whether from a foreign source or by securing the materials to build an indigenous fissile material capability—it could fabricate a nuclear weapon within one year.

You get the idea. And the fear-mongering continued right up to the eave of war. This despite the fact that Bush had been informed in a one-page Presidential Summary in Jan. 2003 that EVERY relevant government agency disagreed with his claims that Iraq was a danger to attack the U.S. Here is what Murray Waas reported about the Summary:

According to interviews and records, Bush personally read the one-page summary in [George] Tenet's presence during the morning intelligence briefing, and the two spoke about it at some length. Sources familiar with the summary said it was highly significant that the president was informed that it was the unanimous conclusion of the intelligence agencies participating in the production of the January 2003 NIE that Saddam was unlikely to consider attacking the U.S. unless Iraq was attacked first.

Cheney received virtually the same intelligence information, according to the same records and interviews. The president's summaries have been shared with the vice president as a matter of course during the Bush presidency.

But this pattern of mendacity is old news. Let's move on to the new pattern, this time of the administration's statements regarding Iran's alleged nuclear capabilities. See if you notice anything familiar in this recent report by Jonathan Landay of Knight Ridder.

The State Department's top arms control official charged Friday that Iran is speeding up its efforts to master the process of enriching uranium on an industrial scale and may be close to surmounting all of the technological barriers.

"We are very close to that point of no return," said Robert Joseph, the undersecretary of state for arms control and international security....

Joseph's comments coincided with the Pentagon's release of an interview transcript in which Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld said that he has no confidence in the current U.S. intelligence estimate that Iran is at least five years away from having a nuclear weapon....

"It's fair to say, I believe, that the Iranians have put both feet on the accelerator," said Joseph. "They are moving very quickly to establish new realities on the ground."

He said that once Iran has mastered the 164-machine pilot plant at Natanz, "you're well on your way to an industrial-scale capability."

Funny coincidence that Joseph's remarks echoed Rumsfeld's opinion expressed just a few days earlier, especially in so far as it flatly contradicts what nearly all experts have said.

"We believe that [Iran] is still a number of years off before they are likely to have enough fissile material to assemble into or to put into a nuclear weapon, perhaps into the next decade," Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte said Thursday during a speech in Washington.

But Rumsfeld has other ideas. The venue he selected to air them? The Laura Ingraham Radio Show on April 18:

INGRAHAM: Are you confident that that estimate of a few days ago of being five years or perhaps even ten years away is realistic and accurate given the fact that in the past we've certainly underestimated nuclear capabilities?


INGRAHAM: No which part?

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: No, I'm not confident.


SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I think it's a very difficult target for our intelligence community. They work hard at it and they're fine people, but it's a difficult thing to do. Our visibility into their circumstance is imperfect. I would add that if one is asked the question how long would it take them to do certain things totally, alone, on an indigenous basis without assistance from other countries you'd get one answer. If you said to them, if you said what if they were able to get ballistic missiles from North Korea, as they have, and what if they were able to acquire fissile material from somebody? How long would it take? I think you'd get a somewhat different answer.

If one wished to float a specious new absurdity on some idiot's radio program, one could do worse than select Laura Ingraham. The actual line of questioning of the Defense Secretary, as you can see from this selection, was intense.

Anyhow, it appears that the administration is starting to make its move toward painting Iran as an imminent threat to the United States. Or perhaps, a gathering threat. So far, Bush & Co. remain in the stumbling around phase. But do not be fooled by their seeming incompetence--well, ok, their actual incompetence--this appears to be a concerted campaign of progaganda.

Just moments ago, as I finished this post, a reliable mouthpiece, the Washington Times, pitched in helpfully with 'We really don't know' status of Iran nukes. The point of the piece seems to be to show that confusion reigns about how to interpret the Iranian nuclear program, and even Democrats like Jane Harman agree that there's no clear evidence to show whether Negroponte or Joseph is right.

It looks, then, like the administration will argue eventually that, with no clear choice between the alarmist and non-alarmist pictures of Iran, it is better to be safe than sorry. The Washington Times piece, quoting Harman's statements on Fox News, seems to cultivate the impression that she views it as her role to back up the Republicans on this. Here are some less helpful comments she made, which were left unmentioned by the Times (from CNN):

"This is not a time to be saber-rattling in our government, talking about the military option," Harman told Fox.

"Just the fact that the Iranian government is making a lot of noise doesn't prove their capability. Remember, the Iraqi government made a lot of noise, and they had nothing."

Yet when Bush & Co. get around to selling a war, it's a sign that they're in the mood to talk, not to listen.


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